Describing Men.

by Allison
(Corning, New York)

Question Yes, as silly as it sounds to me, I can't describe them. Every time I do I feel I make them too feminine sounding. Especially with their hair style. I get that boys like their hair long but is there an easy, simple way to describe them in general?

Answer: Unfortunately, there's no general way to describe men, or women, or anything for that matter.

The key to description is to find the specific, telling details that make that character unique. You don't need a lot of them, just enough to make each character distinct from the others in you story.

For instance, not all boys have long hair. And the only point to mentioning that one character has long hair would be to set him apart from other characters who do not. If they all have long hair, then long hair would scarcely be worth mentioning.

This is why there's seldom a need to mention that a character has two eyes. It's not distinct. (Of course, if he has one eye or three, or he is the only character who has two eyes, that would be a good telling detail.)

If you want to make the point that your male character is masculine, look for the details that convey masculinity, but also that fit with all the other aspects of that character - his age, social class, occupation, hobbies, attitude towards life, etc.

Of course, there are masculine cliches (a square jaw, stubbled chin, sizable biceps, poor grooming, smelly feet, pot belly, hairy legs, chest, back, etc.), but the trouble with cliches is that they are recognizable and not specific to the way you want to portray your character (and they're not always kind).

Here's another exercise to try. Go to a mall and spend some time watching men/boys go by. For each one, jot down his two or three most striking/unique characteristics (positive or negative). You may only have a few seconds if they're walking quickly, so pay attention to what you notice first about each stranger. Is it something about their clothes, attitude, mannerisms, gestures, facial features, hair, body shape, or how they treat the person they're with? Maybe it's how they talk or what they remind you of.

You should find, if you really look, that your descriptions are all different.

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Thank You, Again.
by: Allison

Once again, thank you for clearing it up. I guess I try to describe a little too much. The mall idea actually does sound reasonable. Maybe next time I go to the mall with my friends i'll try it.

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